Some details...


The engines were originally made in three sizes: Nos. 1, 2 and 3, with rotor diameters of 2.5m, 3.5m and 5m respectively. No. 2 was most popular prior to 1900, representing about half of all sales, but the 5m design was preferred by twentieth-century communal purchasers. Pumps were also standardised. A catalogue published in 1902 by Lebert lists seven piston diameters ranging from 33mm to 120mm, typical hourly water-raising capacity (assuming a constant wind of 6 m/sec and a head of 25m) being rated at 650 litres for the No. 1 turbine, 1500 litres for the No. 2 and 3600 litres for the No. 3.

A few examples of a ‘No. 4’ machine, with a 7m-diameter rotor unit, were made in the 1920s. At least two of these were installed in the Pas-de-Calais by La Société Anonyme des Éoliennes Bollée, but their fate (and the fate of others that may have been like them) is still unknown.

The elegant cast-iron columns were preferred by Auguste Bollée and his aristocratic patrons, and it is still a matter of debate whether any of the lattice-type quadrangular Pylônes were made prior to the transfer of business to Lebert in 1898. There is little evidence to suggest that Bollée ever contemplated pylon mounts.

Columns needed to be stayed in a way that the lattice towers did not, but the treads of the spiral stairs could be attached directly to the central 'spine', providing a compact and aesthetically pleasing solution, and height could be adjusted simply by adding another section. In addition, unlike the towers, columns protected the drive shaft and its bearing from wind or rain.

Above: the original form of the Éolienne Bollée had a staircase spiralling around the central column. Machines of this type were especially popular until Lebert acquired the business in 1898. Photograph taken by John Walter in September 2000.
Above right: the pylon-type Éolienne Bollée, seen here at Courville (erected in 1902), became increasingly popular when what had largely been private interest gave way to communal acquisitions after 1900. Photograph taken by John Walter in April 2001.

Pumps were enclosed in buildings that could range from an iron-roofed hard-standing, or a modest roundhouse, to the crenellated near-folly enclosing a column-type Éolienne at Le Clône à Pons-Gemozac (allegedly made from the remnants of two windmill towers) and the château-in-miniature in the grounds of the Château de Chaalis at Pomponne. However, surviving documents retrieved from the archives of comunes such as Dolus-le-Sec, Épuisay or Herbault reveal that the construction of the infrastructure was left to individual contractors hired by the client. This process extended to the wash-houses or Lavoirs, the pipework, the pump-house, and even the base and anchor-blocks of the Éolienne itself. The client was also responsible for collecting the components of the wind-engine from the nearest railway station! All Bollée, Lebert, Duplay or SAEB had to do was send an erector (usually accompanied by an assistant) to supervise the construction of the machine and ensure that it was left in working order.

Above: the pumphouse of 1882-vintage No. 2 Éolienne Bollée in the grounds of the Château Bouvay-Ladubay, in the suburbs of Saumur, has an interesting ogee roof. Though a modern replacement for the original, destroyed in the 1980s, the building is said to follow the original pattern. However, the proportions — particularly the height of the pump-chamber walls — have been questioned. Photograph taken by John Walter in May 2002.
Above right: the water-tank of the Château les Clairbaudières, on the outskirts of the village of Paizay-le-Sec, was erected on an interesting two-storey base. It has been suggested that the projecting string-course marks this building as a former dovecot (pigeonnier). Photograph taken by John Walter in May 2002.

Above: decoration on the pumphouse of 1887-vintage No. 2 Éolienne Bollée in the grounds of Bollee's own house in Arnage, a suburb of Le Mans. This once apparently had a slate roof, but this was eventually replaced with thatch that has now been lost. It is hoped that this particular installation — which is exceptionally significant in the context of the wind-engine's history — will be restored as part of the museum of water being created in Le Mans. Photograph taken by J. Kenneth Major in April 2002.
Above right: the cylindrical brick-built pump-house of the Château de Breuil is typical of many built in this particular configuration, which is often considered to be 'Norman Style'. The carefully graded slates and the cylindrical lead-sheet finial are also commonly encountered. Photograph taken by Régis Girard in June 2003.

Water towers ranged from simple sheet-iron tanks raised on brick or timber plinths to spectacular-looking brick, stone or mass-concrete creations doubling as supports for the Éolienne. Among the most interesting were the tower/tank/pylon constructions pioneered by Lebert from 1906 onward. These could be found in places such as La-Barre-en-Ouche and Herbault, but only the privately-erected Manoir de la Touche (Indre-et-Loire) and Les Viviens (Loiret) machines survive in this form.